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Book festival loses long term sponsor

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By Fiona Reid
Dumfries and West
Book festival loses long term sponsor

A KEY sponsor has withdrawn its support for the Wigtown Book Festival after 14 years.

Edinburgh investment firm Baillie Gifford has been subject to protests by Fossil Free Books about its holdings in fossil fuels and in companies relating to Israel.

The company says the claims are “misleading” and the Wigtown team have criticised the activists as ‘misguided’.

But Baillie Gifford have decided to withdraw from the partnership, and are also stepping back from similar commitments with other book festivals in Hay, Edinburgh, Borders and Cheltenham.

A statement from the Wigtown Book Festival board of trustees yesterday said: “It is with regret that we announce that the partnership between Wigtown Book Festival and Baillie Gifford is to end. We wish to offer huge thanks for their stalwart support over 14 years, which has allowed us to sustain and grow the festival and has provided economic, cultural and social benefits across our community.”

The festival’s artistic director Adrian Turpin said: “Book festivals are invaluable spaces for debate and discussion, including on issues such as climate and Israel-Palestine. Undermining them, is no way to make change. This campaign by Fossil Free Books has been misguided and, at times, disingenuous and will cause harm not to book festivals but the whole UK cultural sector.

“This loss of financial support is a particular blow at a time when, like many arts organisations, we already face considerable challenges following covid, and in the face of the cost of living crisis and public funding squeeze. But we want to reassure supporters that there is no threat to this year’s festival going ahead.”

And chair of trustees Cathy Agnew added: “We will be looking at ways to fill this funding gap in the coming years.

“The festival is Dumfries and Galloway’s largest cultural event and has created more than 50 jobs in the region by encouraging tourism.”

Meanwhile, Baillie Gifford says only two per cent of its clients’ investments relate to fossil fuels – compared to an average of 11 per cent for similar firms – and points to its strong record on investing in renewables. It described any suggestion that it had significant holdings in Occupied Palestinian Territories as “offensively misleading”.

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